We woke up Monday morning with the sad realization our whirlwind tour of Northern Italy was coming to an end. We weren’t in as big a rush as we had been since today was going to be devoted to seeing the city we’d been staying in and then moving north and eventually ending up at the airport preparing for a 6am flight.
We still woke up relatively early and made it to breakfast slightly after 8 instead of slightly before. The baked goods were just as yummy, as was the coffee. The difference this morning, though, was we were not, by a significant margin as we had been yesterday, the youngest people there. No, there was a young couple also staying. And when the young lady came into the breakfast room, she was wearing a rather short dress. I don’t mention this for any other reason than it became an issue with the older patrons, resulting in the eventual banishment of the girl and the admonishment that she wasn’t allowed to “wear her pajamas” to breakfast. Interestingly, we never saw her again. The young man with her disappeared and came back a few minutes later to eat his breakfast.
We also ate, said our goodbyes and headed to the bus depot (which was conveniently located in front of the train station) and grabbed a local bus into town. There were a couple of things on our agenda before heading off in the early afternoon to Verona, one of which was the University, one of the allegedly oldest in Europe (although a number make that claim). This one also had a statue of the first woman to graduate from a European university and the lectern from which Galileo had actually taught! We weren’t terribly confident of seeing these things as the museum wasn’t supposed to be open on Monday but we figured we’d try. There was also another Duomo which, according to the guide books, was something to see. And all of these things were in the same area so it should be pretty easy.
Three stops into our journey I spot the university so we disembark and go to check it out. The problem, we quickly discover, is that like a lot of universities, there are several faculties and this didn’t appear to be the right one. Ah well, no harm. We’d just continue walking. There was a cafe up the street worth checking out, the Café Pedrocchi. Evidently, this was close to a French cafe and all the rage. Certainly something we wanted to see. But as we walked, we got the distinct impression we had passed it. We hadn’t seen a cafe. There were some offices, an elegant restaurant with a piano and a couple of travel agencies but no cafe.
I did what I’d been doing all week and asked directions. Specifically, I asked the local polizia. I never understand people who don’t ask for directions when they’re lost. Sure, if stumbling through in the dark is part of your adventure, then sure, but me, I’d rather see the things want to see without too much muss or fuss. So we asked. We had indeed passed the Pedrocchi. And yes, you guessed it, it was the fancy restaurant. We walked back to it, but decided it really wasn’t a place we wanted to go and have a cappuccino. Instead, we set off in search of the Duomo.
We found a church. It was the closest to a Duomo we could find on the map so we figured it must be it. We looked at it, weren’t terribly impressed and decided we’d had enough of Padua and may as well head back towards the station and move on to our next destination, which we did. We followed the river and ended up back roughly where we started. In the station we got our tickets (the next train was in 100 minutes) and went to the Tourist Information office. See, it hadn’t been open the last two days we’d been by it since we’d been there early. Now it was so we went in and grabbed a map and asked. Turns out we’d gotten of the bus way too early. My bad. But by then we were done. A nearby, regular cafe, was recommended and we went there to wait for our train.
We got to Verona around 12:45 or so… again only mentioned in light of the context it provides. See, we were here on a Monday. So by the time we walked towards the center of town, distinguished by an amazing 1st century Arena, one of the best preserved in Italy (in even better shape than the Coliseum in Rome) we discovered something fascinating about Verona on a Monday – namely nothing is open before 1:30. The Arena wasn’t open until 1:30. The Tourist information office – closed. We were wandering blind. Sure we could have waited the 15 minutes or so for the Arena to open (this was something we knew we wanted to see) or we could follow street signs (no map from the tourinform office, remember?) and head to the second of our must see destinations: Casa di Giulietta – Juliet Capulet’s house! Yup, like 221B in London, there’s an address for a fictional character, complete with famous balcony and studded with love letters stuck on every available surface (usually with chewing gum).
We found it, no problem, and it was open, so in we went (at which point I looked at the time and at the posted information and found we had just made opening hours since it was only now 1:35 and they opened at, yes, 1:30). The house is a renaissance place outfitted with artwork inspired by the play and set pieces and costumes from the 1968 Zeffirelli film.
Since we were already a ways from where we had started, we decided to stay and explore. We had lunch first, where we had a quick look at the tour books on the iPad (and I had a spritz, traditionally a Venetian aperitif, but since I didn’t have one there, here was the next best thing – I didn’t particularly care for it). Looking at our tour guides, it seemed like everything we wanted to see was ensconced within the curve of the “S” shaped river that winds through the old town so we were in great shape.
We found the Duomo of Verona but decided against paying to see another church. We also found the Piazza Dante, named for the writer of The Inferno. The way to get into it was by walking under a whale bone which had been suspended there some 1000+ years earlier. The rumour was that it would fall when someone who had never told a lie walks under it. It’s still there now and will be when you go, too.
After wandering more of old town, we finally made it back to the Arena, which is still used for theatre and concerts and can hold over 20,000 people. It was amazing. Of course, the entrance fee was just that, a fee to enter. There was no museum, no curation of any type. You just wandered around, walked up and down the stone steps, pretended you were a roman emperor in the box by putting your thumb up or down… the usual. Rasa decided she wasn’t up to walking to the top row to look out over the city so I went by myself. But then, as we explored other areas, we found ourselves coming out of a stairwell closer to the top and she bit the bullet and slowly headed up.
Afterwards we finally got to the information office. They mentioned another place to check out, the old Roman Theatre, and gave us a local map. We hiked out there, back to where we’d been earlier in the day, psyching ourselves up for the climb up the stairs we could see from some distance out. Naturally, by the time we did arrive… it was closed. Monday is not the best day for touring in Verona, that’s for sure!
As we headed back towards town, the sun was setting. It seemed the train station would be a logical destination so off we went. For some reason, though, the train we needed for Bergamo, the town where our airport was located, was delayed by an hour. We had little to do so we found a local bookstore and hung out until the train finally arrived.
For the first time in our journey, we had to change trains, which we did easily enough (although the train to take us, ultimately, into town, seemed to be straining at the gears as it pushed through the 5 or stops until our final destination). The train station in Bergamo was a slightly sketchy place and it took a bit to figure out the bus schedule and ticketing for our ride to the airport, about 15 minutes away. We arrived there around 11pm and there were already a large number of people staking out floor space.
I slept off and on for a few hours while Rasa played with her phone. Around 4 they opened the departure and check in gates areas so we could all spread out and finally get actual seats before heading to check in at 5:30 or so.
We boarded just past 6 and were in the air at 6:40, flying over thick cloud cover on our way back home, our Italian adventure coming to a tired, but satisfying conclusion.